As we go into 2007, take a minute to read the following story. Yes … it is a little long – but it is worth the read. When you stop and ponder your daily trials and tribulations, think about John Hanson and the other men and women who helped to form this great nation of ours.
What if your name was John Hanson? And what if you were actually the first President of the United States? And what if no one remembered?
That’s exactly what happened and I’m here to set the record straight. Once I discovered him, I became a big fan of President John Hanson because of his incredible level of determination.
Let’s turn the clock back to April 3, 1715, and focus on Charles County, Maryland. That’s the day he was born and that’s where it happened. He came from a family of great traditions in the colonies.
His grandfather was one of the founders of New Sweden along the Delaware River; one of his nephews was the military secretary to George Washington; another was a signer of the Declaration; still another was a signer of the Constitution; another was Governor of Maryland during the Revolution; another was a member of the first Congress. Other ancestors served the colonies in similar positions. Hanson made major contributions to the life of the nation through his descendants.
As a boy, on his own, he was an avid reader of the classics and studied the great leaders of the Reformation. As an adult, like most colonists, he was a farmer. His Mulberry Grove farm was just across the Potomac from Mount Vernon. Hanson continued to study legal and theological concepts. This led him to become passionate about the cause of the patriots in the colonies.
In time he became one of the strongest colonial advocates of independence. From 1757 to 1773, he served in the Maryland Assembly and was active in raising troops and providing arms. In 1777 he became a member of the Continental Congress where he exemplified his brilliance as an administrator. He also helped resolve the western land issue, thus facilitating the ratification of the Articles of Confederation.
Looking back, The Articles of Confederation was a document proposed on June 11, 1776. The Continental Congress rendered official the Declaration of Independence on July 4th of that year. The United States was actually formed on March 1, 1781, with the signing of The Articles of Confederation.
At that point, a President was needed to run the country. Under those Articles of Confederation, John Hanson was elected “President of the United States in Congress Assembled” in 1781. He was chosen unanimously by Congress.
John Hanson was so popular in Congress that all the other potential candidates refused to run against him. He was a major player in the Revolution and an extremely influential member of Congress. And that Congress voted to provide the new President with a house and servants, and ruled that he “takes precedence of all and every person in the United States.”
One member of the Congress that elected Hanson, George Washington, wrote his colleague: “I congratulate your Excellency on your appointment to fill the most important seat in the United States.”
President Hanson took office just as the Revolutionary War had ended. No one had ever held the position before and there were no guidelines for the position. There were huge challenges from the very beginning. The military, having concluded a long war, demanded to be paid and there were no funds for their salaries. Some soldiers threatened to overthrow the new government and place George Washington in the position of King.
Members of Congress ran for their lives and left President Hanson holding the bag. Somehow, he was able to calm the troops and he held the country together. The alternative would have been disastrous and we could have ended up living under a monarch.
President Hanson then ordered all foreign flags and foreign troops off American soil. Considering the fact that a number of European countries had had a vested interest in the United States since the time of Columbus, this was quite a feat.
Hanson established the first Treasury Department, the first Secretary of War, the first Foreign Affairs Department, Thanksgiving Day, and the Great Seal of the United States. During his administration, a post office department was started, a national bank was chartered, progress was made toward taking the first census, and a uniform system of coinage was adopted. He was also responsible for initiating a number of programs that helped America gain a world position.
The Articles of Confederation called for a President to serve only one year. Thus, John Hanson served from November 5, 1781 until November 3, 1782. Considering the fact that he was only in office for 12 months, he accomplished quite a bit in very little time.
The Articles of Confederation, giving too much power to the states, did not work well. Not much could be agreed upon on a national basis. What was needed came in the form of the Constitution.
The Constitution established not merely a league of states but a government that exercised its authority directly over all citizens. The Constitution also defined clearly the powers of the national government. In addition, it established protection for the rights of the states and of every individual. It was signed on September 17, 1787.
Six other Presidents were elected after John Hanson before the Constitution was signed and George Washington was elected to the Presidency, starting his first four-year term in 1789.
So, the next time you hear that George Washington was the father of our country, you may want to recall the name of John Hanson. He could be labeled the “grandfather of our country.” It was his incredible level of determination that helped the United States get born.
Reprinted from an article entitled The Real First President by Boaz Rauchwerger © 2003. Visit Mr. Rauchwerger’s website http://www.boazpower.com/